The Maccabees


Travelling from the promised land that is Warrington to a city of extreme hustle and bustle called Manchester, two things are crossing my mind. The first, could I have done more to keep The Maccabees from “calling it a day”? The second, I wonder how I’m going to deal with the sadness that comes with the very last days of a band I have grown to love over the years. Addressing the first concern, I feel a small sense of responsibility because this is my first time seeing the band. If I had been more proactive and tried to go see them over the years, assuming many other people did as well, would their will and desire to carry on as a band, family and musical project increase? That I’m not so sure about, what I am sure about however is no matter how joyous their set is tonight, I will feel immense sadness on my train trip back home.

Opening with ‘Wall of Arms’, from the brilliant 2009 album of the same name, Orlando Weeks, Hugo and Felix White and the rest of the London outfit, certainly have a spring in their step. Sat in the circle, the standing punters below are already flipping and flopping around the gaff, absolute scenes. From this stellar introduction, accompanied by twitching and startling blue and orange lighting, the band already have massive grins on their faces because they know a Maccabees audience is a special audience. One of their last ever shows, with three nights scheduled at London’s Alexandra Palace later in the week, there was a slight tear in my eye and a sense of regret that I haven’t ventured out to see them before. Going straight into classic after indie classic, with outings for ‘Love You Better’ and the mesmerising ‘Feel to Follow’, the crowd erupts with every song’s end and every song’s beginning.

Before the mighty ‘Young Lions’, guitarist Felix White thanks fans for sticking with them for 14 years. Asking the audience to raise their arms and cheer if they had seen the Maccabees before, a crescendo of screaming teens, men and women soars through the space. White then declares, “you’re a bit fucking late”, to those who admit they’ve never seen them before through the same question and response. It’s this sense of humour and pure enjoyment the band has which distracts me from the inevitable sadness and I imagine immense frustration fans will have with the news of their split.

Releasing their debut album entitled Colour It In in 2007 via Polydor, The Maccabees quickly grew a huge following in the indie movement. Although slightly late to the party, with the likes of Editors, Franz Ferdinand and The Kooks already producing British guitar music considered more edgy or alternative after the indie explosion of the early 2000s, The Maccabees presented themselves as a band seeping in Englishness through lyrics of “pork pies and drain pipes” (‘Good Old Bill’) and leisure centres with wave machines (‘Latchmere’). Their second album Wall of Arms (2009) still had this British feel but definitely sounded more mature and rich with more rigorous song structures and an overall larger sound.

Continuing the party atmosphere, their set is a retrospective full of old gems and more recent, epic compositions. Their 2012 Mercury Prize nominated Given To The Wild (which really should have won by the way) is the obvious record for their most grand and adventurous music. You’d think the wall of sound songs like ‘Went Away’, ‘Child’ and ‘Ayla’ would be perfect for the cavernous Apollo, however it was the more rough and ready tracks from 2007 which caused the biggest ruckus. ‘Precious Time’ for example is a singalong on the grandest of scales and I find myself sat with my 5-quid lager sloshed and swilled around my crotch area, simultaneously belting my heart out with my throat even cutting out at one point like someone had pulled the plug.

The Maccabees

Despite renditions of ‘Can You Give It?’ and ‘Lego’, which are staple inclusions in most Maccabees sets, clearly their most known material gets the biggest reception. Although playing a plethora of songs from their most recent record Marks to Prove It (2015), including the title track, these are the small lulls during the evening and ‘X-Ray’ and ‘Latchmere’ drag the audience out of these minor plateaus and raise them to another level of excitement and energy. It’s safe to say the musicianship, audience interaction and general modesty has been on point, epitomised by frontman Orlando, who gives special thanks to support band the Mystery Jets, claiming they’re a band The Maccabees have aspired to emulate in their 14-year career; it was a touching moment.

Ending the night on a high with a sequence of tracks dripping in anthemic qualities such as ‘First Love’, ‘No Kind Words’ and ‘Pelican’, we’ve now experienced not one, but two confetti cannon explosions, the white pieces of paper masking the band like a final drop of the curtain. Everyone in attendance has been on their feet pretty much for the past eight songs and that’s evidence of the band’s quality and performance. It’s a balance between being thanked for the night’s work, but also appreciation for their entire existence and the whooping and cheering never lets up.

Overall, it was a sensational night of music and I’m pleased to have been in attendance. Sadly, I was alone, but my singularity didn’t make way for misery and the band really gave my heart a lift. A band that to my mind could have gone on for another 10 or 20 years, creating immersive and experimental records, The Maccabees have cemented themselves in the minds of many and certainly won’t be forgotten. If I’m being really, really picky, I was a bit disappointed not to hear more from Given To The Wild cuts such as ‘Grew Up At Midnight’, ‘Heave’ and ‘Forever I’ve Known’, but their set was still outstanding and full of tracks for every level of Maccabees fan to enjoy.

Those fears of feeling sad on my journey back were there, however I do have a sneaking suspicion this isn’t the last we shall see from the London group. For now though, it’s goodbye to The Maccabees, thank you for everything.

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Liverpool born music writer with passion for punk and Everton FC